“Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house-home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane
2014 has been quite a year. It’s been full of adventure both exciting and uncomfortable, utopian islands like Ibiza, stunning beaches in Portugal, living in Thailand during a military coup, and stunning sunrises in Nepal. I have seen things I never imagined I would, and I learned how to enjoy my solitude while sometimes feeling the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life. I ate some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life, and some of the worst. I’ve slept in gorgeous suites in Bangkok and hovels in Nepal where a rat slept in the headboard of my bed. It’s been a year of contrast.
It’s been a year where I learned a lot about myself. It’s been a year where I learned that as much as I love travel, I am much more a person that enjoys actually living in a foreign country as opposed to constantly traveling. I like waking up and knowing what country I am in. I like having an oven, a nicely equipped kitchen, and cooking my own meals. I like drinking out of the same coffee cup. I like feeling settled.
I like having friends that I know I will be with a year from now. I am tired of saying goodbye. I learned good friends are not easy to come by and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I know that those who know how to hold my heart in their hands should be honored and cherished.
In late November, after being attacked by a dog in Bali, I realized I wanted to be surrounded by people I knew and loved. So, I decided to come back to Portland, Oregon where I had lived before I started this adventure. (By the way, thanks everyone for your well wishes. The dog bite has healed very nicely, and I am doing fine!)
While I was glad to be surrounded by people I knew and loved, something felt wrong. It no longer felt like home. Since leaving the US, I had changed. I was no longer in a rush, and didn’t understand why everyone else had to be. I started seeing how many people struggled just to survive. Being here at Christmas time, amplified the the trap of consumerism that I’ve worked so hard to escape. The news and the media broadcast a message of fear. Being in America has made me feel nervous and sad and lost. I sadly realized I still hadn’t made it home.
And so I asked myself, “Where would I go, if I could go anywhere? Anywhere in the world? ” I realized that answer had been singing to me underneath my skin all along. It had been there when I often remembered dancing in the Sunday ecstatic dances, when my memories faded to the smiles and laughter of the friends I made there. It was written in my half-smile when I would realize I was practicing the patience I had learned there and just wanted to slow down, when I remembered the Technicolor blue sky that took my breath away each day, when I thought of the tacos from my favorite taco truck, when I occasionally used a word of Spanish instead of Thai. San Miguel de Allende was where this love affair began. And I knew, that San Miguel was there waiting patiently for my return.
In February, I wrote a message to San Miguel, “It’s not you, It’s me.” And it was me. I had written to the lovely colonial town that I was too young for it. And, at the time, I was. I still had wanderlust in my heart. Other places were calling to me. They had lessons to teach me. And, I learned. I learned in joyous ways, quiet ways, and I learned in hard ways. I also learned that experiences can be things we consume just as much as material items and that the most important thing is our connection to other people.
“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there. ”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project